COURT HOUSE - The old Whitesboro school building will get a fresh look through a new contract awarded by Middle Township.
According to a release, Township Committee is expected to pass a resolution, at its Oct. 5 meeting, to award a contract of up to $26,750 to Cape May Painting. The painting project will refresh the school building, in the historically Black community of Whitesboro, that operated from 1910 to 1967. The nonprofit Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro uses the building for its headquarters through a partnership established with the township, in 2018.
The Historic Whitesboro School stands at the end of Main Street near Route 9 – just down the block from the new Whitesboro Post Office that opened over the summer.
“I’m happy to announce that we are moving forward with this much-needed work on the historic Whitesboro School House,” Middle Township Mayor Tim Donohue stated. “To honor the decades of good work done here, we want the building to remain a vibrant asset for our community. We are honored to partner with the Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro to drive that mission forward.”
The school building is a piece of living history that dates nearly to the founding of Whitesboro at the start of the 20th century. Dr. George H. White, a Black congressman, from North Carolina, helped create the town as a haven for Blacks to own and farmland and find their own sense of community. Within several years, Whitesboro developed to include two churches, a railroad station, a post office and a hotel.
The township, with the support of the local NAACP and U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2nd), is lobbying to have the new post office named for White, who served as a Republican from 1897-1901 and was the last African American in Congress, until 1929.
White’s daughter, Mamie Adelyne White, was one of the school’s first teachers. Some current community members, including Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro President Bernie Blanks Sr., attended the school, which was originally known as Whitesboro Grammar School.
Both the Township and state have stepped in to maintain the historic building over the years. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs awarded $1.2 million in grants, in 2004, to repair the school’s windows, roof and heating system, remove lead and asbestos, and build new bathrooms. The township's public works department contributed the labor to complete those projects.
The school building was previously used by Cape Human Resources, as a social services complex. The space was also once considered as a location for the post office.
When the building became available, the township saw an opportunity to partner with the Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro for a community use. The nonprofit group runs several programs to serve residents, including a food pantry and a homework club. The township's recreation department added a community garden on the grounds, in 2018.
As the revitalization of the old Whitesboro Grammar School continues, its history is noted by a marker "in remembrance” of former teachers and other staff members.
The plaque also includes a quote from George Washington Carver: “Education is the key to unlock the golden door to freedom.”